Used books, local art and fresh juice — all on one floor
When the owners of the Armory first pitched their project, Castle Community, they envisioned a thriving bookstore and community space on the second floor that would draw people into the building and support its two main sources of revenue: a restaurant on the first level and a performing arts and entertainment space on the top floor.
So, when the tenant who had planned to operate a used bookstore in the Castle pulled out within months of opening, co-owner Scott Hoss began looking around for people interested in owning a bookstore.
As it turns out, that person would be himself.
“I struggled to find anyone who would be interested in owning a bookstore. I wasn’t able to find anyone to bite,” said Hoss. “So, I basically said, ‘we need to have a bookstore’ and in walked this fairy godmother.”
That person was Kristen Eide-Tollefson, owner of the Book House in Minneapolis’s Dinkytown. Not only did she have the books — about 40,000 in total — she also had the expertise and enthusiasm, Hoss said, to help get the shelves stocked with literary treasures.
“The books that I got from her had not seen the outside of storage facility in over 20 years,” said Hoss, who will operate the bookstore as a special benefit corporation that pledges its profits to local arts. “It’s really to cycle books and records through the community,” he said of the store.
The bookstore, along with a consortium of other independent businesses, open today on the second floor of the Castle. In addition to used books and records, there is also a yoga studio, art store and juice bar.
The businesses are all connected to a commons area that will be open to the public daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The space, set up with a shuffleboard table and seating areas, is designed to be a community gathering area where — like Union Station in Denver, albeit smaller — people can come to browse, get work done or just hang out with friends.
“The purpose behind this whole floor is to be the glue that brings people here regularly,” said Hoss.
The second floor will have a strong emphasis on the arts. A nonprofit, Threshold Arts, has been created to program the space with open mics, acoustic performances, artist showings, and other events.
Threshold will have an artist residency program, too, that will allow local artists to rent a studio space for an affordable rate. The studios all have glass windows, allowing visitors to look in at what’s being created. The first artists to be featured at the Castle are Eric Anderson, Heather Roberts, Beth Sievers, Sophia Chai, and a collection of artists from Gallery 24.
Naura Anderson, the arts curator for the Castle, said Threshold is also working with the Rochester Area Chamber’s Leadership Greater Rochester program to build an arts lending library that would allow art lovers and collectors to borrow local works of art with an option to buy later on.
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Cover art by Eric Anderson